Britain's equivalent of Oktoberfest comes far closer to being a real beerfest, although it, too, is built on a glaring contradiction.
That there were once 300 of these quasi-socialist experiments in public leisure, and that there remain fewer than a hundred, reveals much about how our municipal culture has changed.
It is hard to list all the adversaries that the American long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox has overcome. In the past 30 years, this real-life mermaid has battled sharks, icebergs, the KGB and the FBI, eight-foot waves, ten-knot currents and impenetrable fog.
It's been 16 years since I last set foot in a science lab, and reading this book had a sobering effect.
If you want to understand the Swedish referendum on the euro, you have to take into account "the Swedish exception". This is about more than nudity, Ikea and driving around in the daytime with your sidelights on.
In the haze of rubbed out chalk I can just make out: "Today's temperature 12C, 53F". The atmosphere is Dunkirkian among the old campaigners, some of whom are in their eighties.
There are many reasons why the Swedes are perceived as a sombre lot, but the work of Ingmar Bergman, Sweden's greatest film director, surely has something to do with it.
It takes 114 strokes of front crawl to swim from one end to the other.